2012 Lenten Reflections: Loss, grief, suffering . . .

Posted by tom | Mar 4, 2012

Keeping you up-to-date:

This year I'm once again posting a Lenten Reflection Series on the Emerging Scholars Network Blog. I started the seres with Entering Lent: “I Want” in Higher Education (2/23/2012), based on Kent Annan’s recent visit to South Central PA.* The second post Lent brings me back to reflections on loss, grief, suffering is an expansion of Sweeping Up the Heart: A Father's Lament for His Daughter.

*You may remember After Shock saturated my 2011 Lenten reflection. Additional material on Kent's visit is posted at What gives Kent Annan focus as he shares on campus?

Kent Annan shares a brown bag lunch with students, faculty, and InterVarsity staff at PSU-Harrsiburg.

Soul of Christ, sanctify me ...

Posted by tom | Apr 22, 2011

Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me
Blood of Christ, inebriate me
Water from the side of Christ, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
O good Jesus, hear me
Permit me not to be separated from you
From the wicked foe, defend me
At the hour of my death call me home
And bid me come to you
That with your saints I may praise you
For ever and ever, Amen
-- Ignatius of Loyola.* "The Spiritual Exericses." Anima Christi (Soul of Christ). Trans. Louis J. Puhl, S.J. 

HT:  Tom.   (More)

Lenten Preparations 2010

Posted by tom | Feb 12, 2010

Take a moment to reflect upon Lent is not a Ritual (Christine Sine, Godspace, 2/9/2010).  If you have a post to share with regard to the Lenten journey, which begins next week with Ash Wednesday (Ted Olsen, Christian History, 8/08/2008), join the contributors to Walking with Jesus to the Cross: How Do We Follow (Christine Sine, Godspace, 1/12/2010).  

PS. Lenten Preparations (Tom, Groshlink, Feb 23, 2009). 

Fifth Week of Easter 09 -- Part II

Posted by tom | May 18, 2009
In an on-line discussion group I assembled the below resources to encourage further consideration of our call to care for creation. One item which came out of the various posts was my awareness of the importance for a shared framework and developing forums for face-to-face conversations featuring the likes of and/or the works of the below followers of Christ:
  1. Ed Brown, author of Our Father's World:  Mobilizing the Church to Care for Creation and director of of Care of Creation
  2. Cal DeWitt, Environmental Studies Professor at U. of Wisconsin, author of Caring for Creation: Responsible Stewardship of God's Handiwork (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), speaker for a number of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship conferences, and lead figure in Ausable (See On-line Resources, More On-Line Resources)
  3. Loren Wilkinson, Regent College, Earthkeeping in the Nineties: Stewardship of Creation (rev. ed.)
  4. Evangelical Environmental Network's On-line Adult Sunday School Resources, Additional On-Line Resources

PS.  I've found, How about those Southern Baptists [who] Back a Shift on Climate Change a conversation starter ;-)

PPS.  Placing Ben Lowe's new Green Revolution: Coming Together to Care for Creation on the to read pile.

Fourth Week of Easter 09

Posted by theresa | May 17, 2009

Although I've always had an awe and appreciation for God's creation, encouraged and cultivated through the outdoor activities of my family as I was growing up, as an adult I've been able to investigate some of the theology behind that awe.  Caring for our world is not a hobby or preference, it is a Biblical imperative.  It is part of who God designed us to be.  He put man and woman in the garden to work and till the soil, to grow food, and to care for the animals. 

Unfortunately as technology has marched forward toward making our lives increasingly convenient we have become divorced from our connection with creation.  In our family, we are taking small steps to try to reconcile that relationship.  Two and a half years ago we moved to our "homeland" of Lancaster County Pennsylvania, an area with a rich farming heritage and diligent work ethic.  Each year since moving I have added a little more "agriculture" to our half acre in an effort to grow some of our own vegetables and fill our yard with self-sustaining plants.  It's a labor of love -- a love I hope to instill in the hearts of our children as they labor beside me.  We will never be able to live totally independent of grocery stores, nor is that our goal.  But in the choices we make we try to be aware of the origin of our food and the energy it took to produce and deliver it. 

This winter in particular I have been checking the labels of fresh produce and purposely bypassing some fruits and vegetables which are not in season locally.  This small sacrifice reminds me that the bounty we enjoy in this country does indeed come at a price, economic, social, political, and environmental.  It will also make the local produce of summer so much sweeter and tastier after waiting all year for it.  God designed His world with natural rhythms and seasons.  I've just begun down the path of recovering those rhythms in an effort to live more fully in God's creation.

Who is your Savior?

Posted by tom | Apr 12, 2009

How about The Watchmen?  With the film receiving so much press, I had to check out the graphic novel.*  What is interesting about The Watchmen, and receives exploration in the essay Taking Off the Mask: Invocation and Formal Presentation of the Superhero Comic in Moore and Gibbons’ Watchmen, is the irony of vigilante superheros.  From where does our salvation come?  Who can be trusted to set things aright in our difficult age, or any age for that matter?

In stark contrast to how The Watchmen resolve the problems of the world (in case you're not familiar with their decisions, I won't spoil the story for you), we find Jesus the Christ giving his life as a ransom for many and calling His people to love God, neighbor, self, and creation.  Gregory Nazianzen writes,

Many indeed are the wonderous happenings of that time:  God hanging from a cross, the sun made dark and again flaming out; for it was fitting that creation should mourn with its creator.  The temple veil rent, blood and water flowing from his side: the one as from a man, the other as from what was above man; the earth shaken, the rocks shattered because of the rock; the dead risen to bear witness to the final and universal resurrection of the dead.  The happenings at the sepulcher and after the sepulcher, who can fittingly recount them?  Yet no one of them can be compared to the miracle of salvation.  A few drops of blood renew the whole world, and do for all men what the rennet does for the milk:  joining us and binding us. -- Gregory Nazianzen, On the Holy Pasch, Oration 45.1, taken from The Ancient Christian Commentary on Mark, edited by Thomas C. Oden and Christopher A. Hall.

Greeting:  Christ is risen!

Response: Christ is risen indeed!

Let us eagerly anticipate the new heavens and the new earth and follow God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Who do you trust today (tomorrow, for years to come), Part IV

Posted by tom | Apr 11, 2009

As Ellen headed out the door to help set-up the Elizabethtown Clothing Bank, she reminded me we should once again go over Psalm 121 (in order for her to be prepared to share with our local congregation's director of children's ministry ASAP). 

I place a high value on understanding the text which one's trying to memorize.  One resource we pulled off the shelf to assist us with this task was InterVarsity Press' Ancient Christian Commentary on Psalms 51 - 150. Here's some words from Augustine on My help is from the LORD (v.2).

And say, I have lifted my eyes to the mountains from which help shall come to me in such a way that you add to it immediately, My help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.  Therefore let us lift our eyes to the mountains from which my help shall come to us.  Yet it is not the mountains themselves in which our hope is to be placed, for the mountains receive what they may present to us.  Therefore we must put our hope in that place from which the mountains also receive [what they give to us].  When we lift our eyes to the Scriptures, because the Scriptures were delivered through people, we lift our eyes to the mountains from which help will come to us; and yet since they who wrote the Scriptures were themselves people, they were not providing enlightenment from the themselves.  Rather, Christ was the true light who enlightens everyone coming into the world. --  InterVarsity Press' Ancient Christian Commentary on Psalms 51 - 150, Edited by Quentin F. Wesselschmidt.

As I return to this quote, I ask myself to where did the disciples look on this in between day?  (More)

Easter Guide Is Here

Posted by tom | Apr 7, 2009
Looking for Easter materials to follow up to Christine Sine's 2009 Lenten Guide: A Journey Into Wholeness?  Check out Christine Sine's Easter Guide Is Here . ... We'll dive into the new creation/resurrection material next week.  If you have practices, texts, and prayers from this season which you'd recommend for our family and/or our work InterVarsity Christian Fellowship's Gradute & Faculty Ministry, drop us a note.  Thank-you.

Holy Week 09

Posted by tom | Apr 6, 2009

The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem.  They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, "Hosanna!"  "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"  "Blessed is the King of Israel!"  Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, "Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey's colt." -- John 12:12-15 NIV via BibleGateway.com

This evening our family debriefed Palm Sunday (John 12:12-19 & Matthew 21:1-11) and embraced the Holy Week journey through the lens of Christine Sine's Lenten Guide 2009.  The neighborhood Palm Sunday procession sounds like a good idea for next year, in anticipation we might try an extended family demo this year w/Eden's New Bike leading the procession. 

Expanding upon our Who do you trust today (tomorrow, for years to come) series,* we asked the question where do we find our primary identity?  As the Son of Man/Son of God, we too find our primary identity in our countercultural, new creation call from the God the Father and NOT from the fickle crowds/cultural norms by which we're surrounded.  Easier to say than to live.  Looking forward to Andy Crouch's culture making encouragement the first Sunday after Easter!

Although I wrestled with reading Christine's personal reflection upon being a premature infant who spent the first month of her life in hospital,** our children didn't find it difficult to listen to or consider.  Why?  The memory of our first child, Elise Faith is regularly mentioned in our household by Eden.  She loves to celebrate Elise Faith's birthday and share about how her baby sister, who died due to premature birth complications, now waits for us to join her in dancing on the streets that are golden. (Note: For some my reflections visit One more day & Addressing the skeptic).


Third Week of Lent 09

Posted by tom | Mar 20, 2009

The Journey into the Brokenness of Homelessness is much different living in Central PA than Pittsburgh, PA.  Several years ago, when I biked and walked around Oakland each day, I met a number of homeless people.  In addition, I had the opportunity to connect with various urban ministries, including our local congregation (Allegheny Center C&MA), serving the whole city. 

But in the country and the small villages/towns of Central PA, poverty is not as evident.  Yes, we encounter lower income members of this community.  But they are not on the street.  Yes, we contribute what we can to our local congregation's (Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ) involvement with the clothing bank, food bank, and single mother's ministry. And yes, we have friends/family who are unemployed, but they are cared for by family and area ministries/congregations.

What's poverty? For our family to receive a better exposure to worldwide poverty, we let several World Hunger Programme videos do the talking:


Recap: Second Week of Lent 09

Posted by tom | Mar 20, 2009

So how did we do with the Second Week of LentJourney into the Brokenness of Hunger?*

Turns out we didn't miss going grocery shopping at all.  And the girls understood the commitment not to eat dessert for the week.  Tom (who has a very strong sweet tooth) extended the no dessert fast into the third week, breaking the fast during a celebration for the labors of three colleagues with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.  He returned to the fast, breaking for a time with extended family on the Sabbath and for a social with support team members last night.  Note:  Tom's fast includes no brown sugar on his daily bowl of breakfast oatmeal.

I'm still not quite sure how one tallies the cost of meals, particularly since we've been blessed with gifts of food from a number of people over the course of the past 2 weeks.  But we'll work on this further while digging into more plain cheerios and tuna.  Lord willing, we'll have the opportunity to watch the World Food Programme Video as a family sometime over the course of the weekend.

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: ... to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter. -- Isaiah 58:6-7  (More)

Second Week of Lent

Posted by theresa | Mar 8, 2009

This week begins the Journey into the Brokenness of Hunger.* I've decided (wimped out?) that the Mutunga Challenge would be too difficult for our family at the stage of life we're in (small children and nursing mom who is constantly hungry). Although I do try to be conscientious about our food budget on a regular basis, I'm sure we typically exceed $2 per person per day. I've decided not to go grocery shopping this week. If you'd look in our freezer and pantry you'd probably say "Duh!" Where's the sacrifice there? Our shelves are overflowing.


Lenten Preparations

Posted by tom | Feb 23, 2009

No, I don't mean Fasnaught Day preparations.  Even though I'm from and living in PA Dutch Country with the opportunity for purchasing some doughnuts on my mind ;-)  Instead I'm referring to gathering good Lenten resources (from the web and our shelf) while framing our family's Lenten Journey around Christine Sine's 2009 Lenten Guide: A Journey Into Wholeness.  Anyone interested in joining us? 

To introduce the season, our family considered What Is Lent Anyway? followed by watching and discussing the Reflection for Lent youtube video. Our twins particularly had interest in the Mutunga Challenge, i.e., each person in the family eating for under $2.00 a day for 1 week of Lent (and then carrying over this challenge into the rest life giving the difference of money spent to support the poor in Africa, the Caribbean and Guyana).

When tucking the twins into bed, I shared from The Lenten Tree: Devotions for Children & Adults To Prepare for CHRIST's DEATH and HIS RESURRECTION (by Dean Lambert Smith).  Hayley noticed the other book I had with me, i.e., Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter, had a similar cover to Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas -- quite observant. 

Father grant us the grace to recognize our brokenness and walk through the healing season of Lent to arise with your Son in resurrection power, to live lives marked by the bursting forth of the fruit of the Spirit as part of the public testimony of the salt, light, and leaven of the Body of Christ.